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HomeNewsClassic CarsThe only race-winning Supercar built in WA

The only race-winning Supercar built in WA

OF the 1156 races held in Repco Supercars Championship history prior to this weekend’s round at Wanneroo Raceway, one in particular holds a special significance for Western Australia.

Race #398 wasn’t held on WA soil, nor was it won by a driver from the west.

It is the only championship race won by a car that was built in Western Australia.

From the first time the championship visited Wanneroo in 1973 it became traditional for local racers to take on the visiting stars, either in cars purchased from the east coast or, more commonly, machines built in the west.

It was rare, however, for a WA-based team to try and tackle the championship by commuting across the Nullarbor.

Tim Slako and Alf Barbagallo launched an ambitious bid in 1989 with a pair of pink and black Commodores built by Slako and run under the Barbagallo Motor Sport banner, but the campaign foundered at the close of the season.

It was a decade before another Perth-based squad attempted the championship – and it did so with a premium sponsor and a championship-winning driver.

PAE Racing was set up by WA businessmen Kevin Otway and Steve Renshaw, the latter’s Precision Automobile Engineering operation representing the ‘PAE’ in the team’s name.

Otway used his transport business connections to land primary sponsorship from Caterpillar, but the bigger coup was convincing John Bowe to come aboard and end a decorated 11-year stint with Dick Johnson Racing.

“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Bowe told Motorsport News at the time, his decision aided by the involvement of former DJR staffer Les Laidlaw in the fledgling outfit.

“The main reason I am embarking on this new venture is the challenge it represents at this stage of my career.

“To be the main focus and in charge of developing the car is something I am very excited about.”

The AU made its debut at the Wanneroo round. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Bowe started the season in an EL Falcon, racing it at Albert Park’s F1 support races as well as the Eastern Creek and Adelaide 500 championship rounds while Laidlaw completed the construction of a new AU Falcon.

Built from a road car bodyshell supplied by a local Ford dealer, PAE 02 debuted on home soil at Wanneroo’s third round of the 1999 Shell Championship Series.

Bowe showed strongly through the midseason, the rookie squad regularly racing and finishing inside the top 10 amid the most competitive field in the championship’s history to that point.

Top-three race finishes came at Hidden Valley and Sandown, but it was at Supercars’ inaugural visit to Queensland Raceway that Bowe posted milestone achievements for the WA-built car – albeit in controversial fashion.

Bowe lined up on the front row alongside Russell Ingall. Pic: an1images.com / Andrew Hall

He drove PAE 02 to pole position by almost half a second – a huge margin, given the circuit’s short lap! – but grained the tyres in the opening race and fell to 11th.

Recovering to seventh in the rain-hit, two-part second sprint, setup changes allowed Bowe to charge forward in the finale, and he passed Garth Tander with four laps to go to take the chequered flag first.

However, stewards had judged his pass to have occurred under yellow flags. They showed the black flag to Bowe, who ignored it, which initially led to his exclusion from the race.

Garry Rogers and the GRM crew are excited because Tander was poised to take his maiden ATCC/SC race win, until Bowe’s appeal was upheld. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

The team immediately lodged an appeal which, when heard two weeks later on the eve of the subsequent Calder round, overturned the decision and instated Bowe as the winner of the race.

EXPLAINED: How Bowe won a race by ignoring a black flag

To date, it remains the only ATCC/Supercars Championship race win earnt by a car and team from WA.

Bowe continued to race PAE 02 for the remainder of the season and was joined by Jim Richards for the season-ending endurance races at QR and Bathurst.

By that time, though, the team was no longer WA-owned or based in Perth.

PAE 02 was at the centre of this spectacular conflagration at the 1999 Queensland 500. Pic: an1images.com / Scott Wensley

A downturn in the mining industry forced Otway to put the team up for sale, with John Briggs beating out several potential buyers.

Briggs relocated the team to Brisbane in early September, housing it in the same workshop as his own Briggs Motorsport operation, which itself fielded a pair of Supercheap Auto-backed Falcons for himself and Bob Thorn.

“Kevin Otway had done a fantastic job in getting this thing off the ground and none of this would have happened without his input,” Bowe wrote in his Motorsport News column.

“But the pressures of a mining industry down-turn forced him to put his ‘baby’ up for adoption.

“John has some exciting plans ahead for a multi-team operation not unlike what Rick Hendrick or Jack Roush runs in the US in NASCAR circles.”

So what happened to WA’s only race-winning Supercar after that?

Bowe limps PAE 02 back to the pits late in the 2000 Bathurst 1000. This was the second time the car had lost its left-rear wheel. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Bowe continued to race PAE 02 throughout the 2000 season, joined again by Richards for the enduros, and into the 2001 season before it became the team’s spare chassis.

Briggs sold the car later that year to Halliday Motorsport, which fielded it in the second-tier Konica V8 Supercar Series as well as at the Bathurst 1000, where it was driven by Ross Halliday and Greg Crick.

Grice was eventually joined by Peter Doulman after Halliday failed to make the cut in qualifying, but engine problems forced them out after just one lap. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Halliday continued racing it in the Konica Series in 2002, while Allan Grice made his final Bathurst 1000 start in the car that same year.

Sydney Star Racing ran the car in the 2003 Konica Series and Rupprecht Motorsport in 2004 with Adam Wallis spending time at the wheel.

It hasn’t been seen at a racetrack for some years now and has been retained as a bare chassis by Waltec’s Aaron Tebb.

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